Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Comment: Democracy and Dread

M arking the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, America finds itself in an interwar funk. We go about our business as in peacetime, even as we seem to be drifting, inexorably, toward a new and more perilous Mideast conflict. While a few foreign-policy barons are in fierce debate, most Americans would rather not think about it. The mood is not exactly escapist so much as avoidant. Describing New York in the fateful summer of 1941 (in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay ), the novelist Michael Chabon wrote: "The rest of the world was busy feeding itself, country by country, to the furnace, but while the city's newspapers and newsreels at the Trans-Lux were filled with ill portents, defeats, atrocities, and alarms, the general mentality of the New Yorker was not one of siege, panic, or grim resignation to fate, but rather the toe-wiggling, tea-sipping contentment of a woman curled on a sofa, reading in front of a fire with cold rain rattling against the windows. ä Joe...

Cheap Homes? Don't Hold Your Breath

I s housing the next economic bubble? As the stock market has swooned, many investors are moving their assets into something tangible and useful: bigger and costlier homes. And as prices keep rising, many people outside the investor class find they are paying more money to buy less house. The shift by traumatized investors into real estate is hardly surprising. A house has a reassuring physical existence. Even in a depression, people have to live somewhere. You can make more widgets, but nature provides only so much real estate. For all these reasons, a lot of experts say a housing crash is unlikely. Yet housing prices can outstrip incomes for only so long. In the past two years housing prices have been rising more than twice as fast as incomes nationally and more than three times the rate of incomes in hot markets like Greater Boston. At some point prices will level off and even decline. Housing inflation reflects peculiarities of place. Greater Boston has a diversified and healthy...

Comment: Useless Airways

T he latest corporation to file for bankruptcy is not another fraudulent telecom, but US Airways. The airlines were among the sectors hardest hit by September 11. And with its concentration in the Northeast, US Airways was among the hardest hit of all. But it would be a mistake to blame the airlines' woes on the terrorist attacks. Airlines and the telecoms have one big thing in common: Both are casualties of deregulation. As Paul Starr points out in " The Great Telecom Implosion ," networked industries such as telephone companies have trouble competing in a wide-open market. One company is pretty much like another; new competitors tend to build a lot of excess capacity in order to grab market share, and pretty soon nobody is making a living. Airlines are a similar story. Since they were deregulated in 1978, U.S. airlines as a whole have lost several billions of dollars. What's a little hard to grasp is that deregulation could be bad for shareholders, workers and consumers alike -- and...

At Economic Summit, It's All for Show

B ad timing is only one of several problems afflicting George W. Bush's Waco Economic Summit. The economy is just not cooperating with his upbeat message. A second major industry, airlines, is now joining the telecommunications collapse as evidence that the economy faces more than a crisis of investor confidence. The Federal Reserve has been keeping the economy afloat with interest rate cuts, but despite economic weakness, it declined yesterday to cut rates further. Last week, the Commerce Department quietly and sheepishly released revised statistics showing that the recession of 2001 was more serious and prolonged than originally thought. The Waco event needs to be understood mainly as theater. The same cynical producers who recruited African-American tokens to integrate the 2000 Republican National Convention unearthed a handful of ''ordinary'' Americans to come to Waco mainly for their value as props. But, for the most part, Bush's summiteers are the usual suspects who have brought...

Double Standard on Bankruptcy

W ith all the corporate and accounting scandals, you may have noticed that Congress is also working on bankruptcy reform legislation. A bill nearly passed last week and will probably be approved when Congress returns in September. However, this is precisely the wrong kind of reform. It is a measure long sought by the banking industry to make it easier to squeeze money from ordinary individuals who declare bankruptcy after facing personal hard times or being overwhelmed by debt. Often these are individuals facing catastrophic illnesses or personal financial reverses. Sometimes they are people who ran up too much consumer debt, but in these buying binges the credit card companies are willing coconspirators. They foist credit cards on college kids with no visible means of support save parents. They encourage people to run up debts with multiple cards. Why? In a low-interest-rate environment, lenders love those 20 percent, Mafia-style interest rates that many consumers foolishly pay, and...

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